You can’t find a better off-road vehicle than a side-by-side. They’ve got the suspension, tires, and profile to make it easy to navigate unpredictable terrain.
But they’re not quite at the top of the game when it comes to performance. Even Polaris’s industry-leading RZR Pro R only pumps out 225 HP… about the same as a Toyota Camry.
No matter how much power you’ve got, you can always use a little extra oomph. Here are some of the biggest pitfalls that can slow you down and how you can get more horsepower in any UTV easily.
Before we get on to all the ways you can increase your horsepower, let’s look at some of the factors that can make your machine underperform. And no, high blood pressure isn’t one of them.
You might not realize this, but tires are an important part of your UTV’s drivetrain. When you put on bigger tires, you’re increasing your gear ratio. This sucks the power right out of your machine’s low end. That means slower acceleration and less torque to roll over obstacles at low speeds. Of course, there are ways to fix this, but we’ll get to that later.
What makes your engine go? Gas and oxygen combine in your engine’s cylinders and ignite. It takes the two to tango… and generate the power you need. If your air filter is mucked up with crud, you’re not going to get the oxygen you need. Clean it, replace it, maintain it, and get your horsepower back.
This one might throw you for a loop, but don’t use the wrong octane fuel. What do we mean by “wrong”? That’s anything other than what your driver’s manual says. Unless you’ve done some other tweaks, using anything other than what your machine is made for will reduce your power output.
But does higher octane gas increase horsepower? The short answer is no. There are plenty of folks that swear by running 97 octane fuel in their naturally aspirated side-by-sides, but not only does it not give you more power, it actually reduces your power. Don’t do it. It’s a waste of money.
The only time you want to change to a higher octane gas than what the manufacturer recommends is when you make a major modification that requires it, like installing a turbo, an ECU tune, or both.
Now that you’ve corrected the little mistakes that might have been robbing your UTV’s horsepower, let’s look at how to take your performance above and beyond.
If you want to increase horsepower in a naturally aspirated engine, just add a turbo! Nothing will boost your horsepower quite like a turbo. Think about the difference in power between a RZR XP 1000 and a RZR XP Turbo. The 1000 has 110 HP and the Turbo has 168 HP with a smaller engine!
Your results may vary, but it’s pretty obvious that adding a turbo can give you a huge boost.
So you want more horsepower and running a turbo—whether retrofitted or stock—just isn’t cutting it? You need an ECU tune combined with the perfect clutch kit.
ECU tunes remove limiters to let you rev higher, go faster, and drive better. They can even adjust the amount of boost you get on turbocharged machines for a massive improvement to overall performance. Sounds weird, right? Don’t worry, ECU tunes are super easy to install, and ours have been thoroughly tested to make sure they won’t break anything.
Clutch kits work alongside ECU tunes to push performance over the top. With a combination of new weighted arms and springs, we can make your engagement better (i.e. it feels better when you hit the gas) and keep your revs in their max power range for longer (i.e. you go faster) with UTV clutch kits.
Getting an aftermarket exhaust can give you a modest increase in horsepower. It works by getting all the exhaust out of your engine more efficiently. That way, your engine is free to suck more fresh air and fuel in to make more power!
Gear reductions are game changers. They technically don’t give you any horsepower, but they do give you tons of low-end torque for faster acceleration and more pushing power at low speed.
There are two different kinds of gear reductions though. So which one is right for you?
Transmission gear reductions are the traditional way to get a gear reduction. You swap out some gears in your transmission, and now you’ve got more low-end torque.
GDP Portal Gear Lifts put the gear reduction in your wheel hub. Portal gear lifts replace each wheel hub with a gearbox that gives you a lift and a reduction. This has a few advantages over a traditional lift. You get your choice of lift (we have 4”, 6”, and 8” lifts) and your choice of gear reduction (from 15% to 70%), so you can fit bigger tires with the perfect amount of torque to keep your gas pedal punchy.
But the best thing about portals is the way they protect your drivetrain. Since the gear reduction comes at the very end, your transmission, prop shafts, differential, and axles all benefit from it. That means less wear and tear on top of awesome power and performance.
If you need more power there are lots of ways to do it. In case you lost track, here are all the different ways to boost power on your side-by-side:
And we didn’t even get into some of the crazier mods like big bore kits and performance camshafts.
The only thing stopping you from getting more power is the fact that you’re still reading this article. So get some upgrades, get them installed, and get a smile on your face every time you hit the gas.